Lovely Lady Head Vases

Post by Janice Peterson

I’ve never been a collector. At least not until the day I entered a consignment shop and saw my first lady head vase. I was charmed by the 1940’s look of this lovely ceramic Mae West look-alike, complete with a hole in the top of her head! It was that day I officially became a “head hunter”.

Head vases were used by florist’s shops to hold small bouquets of flowers from the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s. Head vase themes range from children to clowns to old men, but I mostly go for the Glamour Girls – those sophisticated ladies with long eyelashes, often wearing a hat and dangling earrings. They are portrayed from the shoulders up, and some even include a hand (my favorite are the ones with their hand touching their temple, the so-called “Headache Girls”). Many famous women have been depicted as head vases, including Mae West, Bette Davis and Betty Grable.

Yard sales, consignment shops and online auctions are great ways to find head vases. They can go for up to thousands of dollars, however many can be had for $20 – $60.

Air plants (Tillandsia spp.)  fit very neatly into the top – an easy and cool way to display these epiphytes. One of my favorite ways to decorate a patio table in the summer is to fill head vases with water for cut flowers. They can also be packed with potting soil and used as a planter (holes may be drilled in the bottom for drainage, although I choose drought tolerant plants and water sparingly).

Although I enjoy collecting head vases I try to not to own too many or group too many together. There is something a bit eerie about too many eyes watching you, and their posturing make them seem a bit judgmental!

 Photo credits: Patrea Wilson and Janice Peterson

Janice Peterson has been on staff as a Grounds Horticulturist at RBG since 2002. She has been involved in a variety of projects including: the Thomas Jefferson Garden, the Heirloom Garden, and the Horticulture Building vegetable and perennial beds. She also helps organize our spring and fall plant sales, maintains the educational cutting display in the Parker Education Center, and leads a weekly gardening group for young adults with disabilities.






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